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A Minor Bird

 

I have wished a bird would fly away,

And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door

When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.

The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong

In wanting to silence any song.

by. Robert Frost

 

 

Confirmation

 

He was a poet who wrote clever verses,
and folks said he had a fine poetical taste;
But his father, a practical farmer, accused him
of letting the strength of his arm go to waste.

He called on his sweetheart each Saturday evening,
As pretty a maiden as ever man faced,
And there he confirmed the old man’s accusation
By letting the strength of his arm go to waist.

by: Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Peace

 

We passed their graves:

The dead men there,

Winners or losers,

Did not care.

In the dark

They could not see

Who had gained

The victory.

by: Langston Hughes

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Sonnet 132

 

Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torment me with disdain,
Have put on black, and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even
Doth half that glory to the sober west
As those two mourning eyes become thy face.
O, let it then as well beseem thy heart
To mourn for me since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

by: William Shakespeare

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Morning Song

 

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.

 

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

 

I’m no more your mother

Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow

Effacement at the wind’s hand.

 

All night your moth-breath

Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:

A far sea moves in my ear.

 

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral

In my Victorian nightgown.

Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s.  The window square

 

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try

Your handful of notes;

The clear vowels rise like balloons.

by: Sylvia Plath

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Love In Place

 

I really don’t remember falling in love all that much

I remember wanting to bake corn bread and boil a ham and I

certainly remember making lemon pie and when I used to smoke I

stopped in the middle of my day to contemplate

 

I know I must have fallen in love once because I quit biting

my cuticles and my hair is gray and that must indicate

something and I all of a sudden had a deeper appreciation

for Billie Holiday and Billy Staryhorn so if  it wasn’t love I don’t know what it was

 

I see the old photographs and I and smiling and I’m sure quite

happy but what I mostly see is me

through your eyes and I am still young and slim and very much committed to the

love we still have

by: Nikki Giovanni

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In the Depths of Solitude

 

I exist in the depths of solitude

Pondering my true goal

Trying 2 find peace of mind

And still preserve my soul

CONSTANTLY yearning 2 be accepted

And from all receive respect

Never compromising but sometimes risky

and that is my only regret

A young heart with an old soul

how can there be peace

how can I be in the depths of solitude

when there R 2 inside of me

This Duo within me causes

The perfect opportunity

2 learn and live twice as fast

As those who accept simplicity

by: Tupac Shakur

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The Mother

 

Abortions will not let you forget.

You remember the children you got that you did not get,

The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,

The singers and workers that never handled the air.

You will never neglect or beat them,

Or silence or buy with a sweet.

You will never wind up the sucking-thumb

Or scuttle off ghosts that come.

You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,

Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed

children.

I have contracted. I have eased

My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.

I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized

Your luck

And your lives from your unfinished reach,

If I stole your births and your names,

Your straight baby tears and your games,

Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,

and your deaths,

If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,

Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.

Though why should I whine,

Whine that the crime was other than mine?–

Since anyhow you are dead.

Or rather, or instead,

You were never made.

But that too, I am afraid,

Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?

You were born, you had body, you died.

It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.

Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you All.

by: Gwendolyn Brooks

O Captain! My Captain!

 

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

 

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

 

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

 

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

 

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

by: Walt Whitman

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If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

 

If I can stop one heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one love the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain

by: Emily Dickinson  

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Incident

 

Once riding in old Baltimore,

Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,

I saw a Baltimorean

Keep looking straight at me.

 

Now I was eight and very small,

and he was no whit bigger,

And so I smiled, but he poked out

his tongue, and called me, ‘Nigger”.

 

I saw the whole of Baltimore

From May until December;

Of all the things that happened there

That’s all that I remember.

by: Countee Cullen

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The Weary One

 

The weary one, orphan

of the masses, the self,

the crushed one, the one made of concrete,

the one without a country in crowded restaurants,

he who wanted to go far away, always farther away,

didn’t know what to do there, whether he wanted

or didn’t want to leave or remain on the island,

the hesitant one, the hybrid, entangled in himself,

had no place here: the straight-angled stone,

the infinite look of the granite prism,

the circular solitude all banished him:

he went somewhere else with his sorrows,

he returned to the agony of his native land,

to his indecisions, of winter and summer.

by: Pablo Neruda

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Woman Work

 

I’ve got the children to tend

The clothes to mend

The floor to mop

The food to shop

Then the chicken to fry

The baby to dry

 

I got company to feed

The garden to weed

I’ve got shirts to press

The tots to dress

The can to be cut

I gotta clean up this hut

Then see about the sick

And the cotton to pick.

 

Shine on me, sunshine

Rain on me, rain

Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.

 

Storm, blow me from here

With your fiercest wind

Let me float across the sky

‘Til I can rest again.

 

Fall gently, snowflakes

Cover me with white

Cold icy kisses and

Let me rest tonight.

 

Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone

Star shine, moon glow

You’re all that I can call my own.

by: Maya Angelou

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Eldorado

 

Gaily bedight,

A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,

Had journeyed long,

Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado.

 

But he grew old-

This knight so bold-

And o’er his heart a shadow

Fell as he found

No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.

 

And, as his strength

Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow-

“Shadow,” said he,

“Where can it be-

This land of Eldorado?”

 

“Over the Mountains

Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

Ride, boldly ride,”

The shade replied-

“If you seek for Eldorado!”

by: Edgar Allan Poe

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My Childhood Home I See Again

 

I

My childhood’s home I see again,

And sadden with the view;

And still, as memory crowds my brain,

There’s pleasure in it too.

 

O Memory! thou midway world

‘Twixt earth and paradise,

Where things decayed and loved ones lost

In dreamy shadows rise,

 

And, freed from all that’s earthly vile,

Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,

Like scenes in some enchanted isle

All bathed in liquid light.

 

As dusky mountains please the eye

When twilight chases day;

As bugle-tones that, passing by,

In distance die away;

 

As leaving some grand waterfall,

We, lingering, list its roar–

So memory will hallow all

We’ve known, but know no more.

 

Near twenty years have passed away

Since here I bid farewell

To woods and fields, and scenes of play,

And playmates loved so well.

 

Where many were, but few remain

Of old familiar things;

But seeing them, to mind again

The lost and absent brings.

 

The friends I left that parting day,

How changed, as time has sped!

Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,

And half of all are dead.

 

I hear the loved survivors tell

How nought from death could save,

Till every sound appears a knell,

And every spot a grave.

 

I range the fields with pensive tread,

And pace the hollow rooms,

And feel (companion of the dead)

I’m living in the tombs.

 

II

But here’s an object more of dread

Than ought the grave contains–

A human form with reason fled,

While wretched life remains.

 

Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,

A fortune-favored child–

Now locked for aye, in mental night,

A haggard mad-man wild.

 

Poor Matthew! I have ne’er forgot,

When first, with maddened will,

Yourself you maimed, your father fought,

And mother strove to kill;

 

When terror spread, and neighbors ran,

Your dange’rous strength to bind;

And soon, a howling crazy man

Your limbs were fast confined.

 

How then you strove and shrieked aloud,

Your bones and sinews bared;

And fiendish on the gazing crowd,

With burning eye-balls glared–

 

And begged, and swore, and wept and prayed

With maniac laught[ter?] joined–

How fearful were those signs displayed

By pangs that killed thy mind!

 

And when at length, tho’ drear and long,

Time smoothed thy fiercer woes,

How plaintively thy mournful song

Upon the still night rose.

 

I’ve heard it oft, as if I dreamed,

Far distant, sweet, and lone–

The funeral dirge, it ever seemed

Of reason dead and gone.

 

To drink it’s strains, I’ve stole away,

All stealthily and still,

Ere yet the rising God of day

Had streaked the Eastern hill.

 

Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,

Seemed sorrowing angels round,

Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell

Upon the listening ground.

 

But this is past; and nought remains,

That raised thee o’er the brute.

Thy piercing shrieks, and soothing strains,

Are like, forever mute.

 

Now fare thee well–more thou the cause,

Than subject now of woe.

All mental pangs, by time’s kind laws,

Hast lost the power to know.

 

O death! Thou awe-inspiring prince,

That keepst the world in fear;

Why dost thos tear more blest ones hence,

And leave him ling’ring here?

 

by: Abraham Lincoln

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so you want to be a writer?

 

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you

in spite of everything,

don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your

heart and your mind and your mouth

and your gut,

don’t do it.

if you have to sit for hours

staring at your computer screen

or hunched over your

typewriter

searching for words,

don’t do it.

if you’re doing it for money or

fame,

don’t do it.

if you’re doing it because you want

women in your bed,

don’t do it.

if you have to sit there and

rewrite it again and again,

don’t do it.

if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,

don’t do it.

if you’re trying to write like somebody

else,

forget about it.

 

if you have to wait for it to roar out of

you,

then wait patiently.

if it never does roar out of you,

do something else.

 

if you first have to read it to your wife

or your girlfriend or your boyfriend

or your parents or to anybody at all,

you’re not ready.

 

don’t be like so many writers,

don’t be like so many thousands of

people who call themselves writers,

don’t be dull and boring and

pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-

love.

the libraries of the world have

yawned themselves to

sleep

over your kind.

don’t add to that.

don’t do it.

unless it comes out of

your soul like a rocket,

unless being still would

drive you to madness or

suicide or murder,

don’t do it.

unless the sun inside you is

burning your gut,

don’t do it.

 

when it is truly time,

and if you have been chosen,

it will do it by

itself and it will keep on doing it

until you die or it dies in you.

 

there is no other way.

and there never was.

by: Charles Bukowski

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Robin Hood

 

NO! those days are gone away,

And their hours are old and gray,

And their minutes buried all

Under the down-trodden pall

Ofthe leaves of many years:

Many times have winter’s shears,

Frozen North, and chilling East,

Sounded tempests to the feast

Of the forest’s whispering fleeces,

Since men knew nor rent nor leases.

 

No, the bugle sounds no more,

And the twanging bow no more;

Silent is the ivory shrill

Past the heath and up the hill;

There is no mid-forest laugh,

Where lone Echo gives the half

To some wight, amaz’d to hear

Jesting, deep in forest drear.

 

On the fairest time of June

You may go, with sun or moon,

Or the seven stars to light you,

Or the polar ray to right you;

But you never may behold

Little John, or Robin bold;

Never one, of all the clan,

Thrumming on an empty can

Some old hunting ditty, while

He doth his green way beguile

To fair hostess Merriment,

Down beside the pasture Trent;

For he left the merry tale,

Messenger for spicy ale.

 

Gone, the merry morris din;

Gone, the song of Gamelyn;

Gone, the tough-belted outlaw

Idling in the “grene shawe”;

All are gone away and past!

And if Robin should be cast

Sudden from his turfed grave,

And if Marian should have

Once again her forest days,

She would weep, and he would craze:

He would swear, for all his oaks,

Fall’n beneath the dockyard strokes,

Have rotted on the briny seas;

She would weep that her wild bees

Sang not to her—strange! that honey

Can’t be got without hard money!

 

So it is; yet let us sing

Honour to the old bow-string!

Honour to the bugle-horn!

Honour to the woods unshorn!

Honour to the Lincoln green!

Honour to the archer keen!

Honour to tight little John,

And the horse he rode upon!

Honour to bold Robin Hood,

Sleeping in the underwood!

Honour to maid Marian,

And to all the Sherwood clan!

Though their days have hurried by

Let us two a burden try.

 by: John Keats

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The Addict

 

Sleepmonger,

deathmonger,

with capsules in my palms each night,

eight at a time from sweet pharmaceutical bottles

I make arrangements for a pint-sized journey.

I’m the queen of this condition.

I’m an expert on making the trip

and now they say I’m an addict.

Now they ask why.

WHY!

 

Don’t they know that I promised to die!

I’m keping in practice.

I’m merely staying in shape.

The pills are a mother, but better,

every color and as good as sour balls.

I’m on a diet from death.

 

Yes, I admit

it has gotten to be a bit of a habit-

blows eight at a time, socked in the eye,

hauled away by the pink, the orange,

the green and the white goodnights.

I’m becoming something of a chemical

that’s it!

 

My supply

of tablets

has got to last for years and years.

I like them more than I like me.

It’s a kind of marriage.

It’s a kind of war where I plant bombs inside

of myself.

 

Yes

I try

to kill myself in small amounts,

an innocuous occupatin.

Actually I’m hung up on it.

But remember I don’t make too much noise.

And frankly no one has to lug me out

and I don’t stand there in my winding sheet.

I’m a little buttercup in my yellow nightie

eating my eight loaves in a row

and in a certain order as in

the laying on of hands

or the black sacrament.

 

It’s a ceremony

but like any other sport

it’s full of rules.

It’s like a musical tennis match where

my mouth keeps catching the ball.

Then I lie on; my altar

elevated by the eight chemical kisses.

 

What a lay me down this is

with two pink, two orange,

two green, two white goodnights.

Fee-fi-fo-fum-

Now I’m borrowed.

Now I’m numb.

By: Anne Sexton

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On Virtue

 

O Thou bright jewel in my aim I strive

To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare

Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.

I cease to wonder, and no more attempt

Thine height t’ explore, or fathom thy profound.

But, O my soul, sink not into despair,

Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand

Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.

Fain would the heav’n-born soul with her converse,

Then seek, then court her for her promis’d bliss.

Auspicious queen, thine heav’nly pinions spread,

And lead celestial Chastity along;

Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,

Array’d in glory from the orbs above.

Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!

O leave me not to the false joys of time!

But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.

Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,

To give me an higher appellation still,

Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,

O thou, enthron’d with Cherubs in the realms of day.

by: Phillis Wheatley

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A Desolation

 

Now mind is clear

as a cloudless sky.

Time then to make a

home in wilderness.

 

What have I done but

wander with my eyes

in the trees? So I

will build: wife,

family, and seek

for neighbors.

 

Or I

perish of lonesomeness

or want of food or

lightning or the bear

(must tame the hart

and wear the bear) .

 

And maybe make an image

of my wandering, a little

image—shrine by the

roadside to signify

to traveler that I live

here in the wilderness

awake and at home.

by: Allen Ginsberg

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When I am dead, my dearest

 

When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.

 

I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.

by: Christina Georgina Rossetti

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Bury Me in a Free Land

 

Make me a grave where’er you will,

In a lowly plain or a lofty hill;

Make it among earth’s humblest graves

But not in a land where men are slaves.

 

I could not rest if around my grave

I heard the steps of a trembling slave;

His shadows above my silent tomb

Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

 

I could not rest if I heard the tread

Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,

And the mother’s shriek of wild despair

Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

 

I could not sleep if I saw the lash

Drinking blood at each fearful gash,

And I saw her babes torn from her breast,

Like trembling doves from her parent nest.

 

I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay

Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,

And I heard the captive pleading in vain

As they bound afresh his galling chain.

 

If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms

Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,

My eye would flash with a mournful flame,

My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

 

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might

Can rob no man of his dearest sight;

My rest shall be calm in any grave

Where none can call his brother a slave.

 

I ask no monument, proud and high,

To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;

All that my yearning spirit craves

Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

by: Frances E. W. Harper

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Solitude

 

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone.

For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,

But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and the hills will answer;

Sigh, it is lost on the air.

The echoes bound to a joyful sound,

But shrink from voicing care.

 

Rejoice, and men will seek you;

Grieve, and they turn and go.

They want full measure of all your pleasure,

But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;

Be sad, and you lose them all.

There are none to decline your nectared wine,

But alone you must drink life’s gall.

 

Feast, and your halls are crowded;

Fast, and the world goes by.

Succeed and give, and it helps you live,

But no man can help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure

For a long and lordly train,

But one by one we must all file on

Through the narrow aisles of pain.

by: Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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I Am The People, The Mob

 

I Am the people–the mob–the crowd–the mass.

Do you know that all the great work of the world is

done through me?

I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the

world’s food and clothes.

I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons

come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And

then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.

I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand

for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.

I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.

I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and

makes me work and give up what I have. And I

forget.

Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red

drops for history to remember. Then–I forget.

When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the

People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer

forget who robbed me last year, who played me for

a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the world

say the name: ‘The People,’ with any fleck of a

sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.

The mob–the crowd–the mass–will arrive then.

by: Carl Sandburg

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A Psalm of Life

 

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream!

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

 

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.

 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

 

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

 

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;

 

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

 

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Facing It

 

My black face fades, hiding inside the black granite.

I said I wouldn’t, dammit:

No tears.  I’m stone. I’m flesh.

My clouded reflection eyes me like a bird of prey,

the profile of night slanted against morning.

I turn this way–the stone lets me go.

I turn that way–I’m inside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial again,

depending on the light to make a difference.

I go down the 58,022 names,

half-expecting to find my own in letters like smoke.

I touch the name Andrew Johnson;

I see the booby trap’s white flash.

Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse

but when she walks away the names stay on the wall.

Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s  wings cutting across my stare.

The sky. A plane in the sky.

A white vet’s image floats closer to me,

then his pale eyes look through mine. I’m a window.

He’s lost his right arm inside the stone.

In the black mirror a woman’s trying to erase names:

No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

 

by: Yusef Komunyakaa

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The Betrothal

 

Oh, come, my lad, or go, my lad,

And love me if you like.

I shall not hear the door shut

Nor the knocker strike.

 

Oh, bring me gifts or beg me gifts,

And wed me if you will.

I’d make a man a good wife,

Sensible and still.

And why should I be cold, my lad,

And why should you repine,

Because I love a dark head

That never will be mine?

 

I might as well be easing you

As lie alone in bed

And waste the night in wanting

A cruel dark head.

 

You might as well be calling yours

What never will be his,

And one of us be happy.

There’s few enough as is.

 

by: Edna St. Vincent Millay

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I Am in Need of Music

 

I am in need of music that would flow

Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,

Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,

With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.

Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,

Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,

A song to fall like water on my head,

And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

 

There is a magic made by melody:

A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool

Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep

To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,

And floats forever in a moon-green pool,

Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

 by: Elizabeth Bishop

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Life Is Bitter

 

Life is bitter. All the faces of the years,

Young and old, are gray with travail and with tears.

Must we only wake to toil, to tire, to weep?

In the sun, among the leaves, upon the flowers,

Slumber stills to dreamy death the heavy hours …

Let me sleep.

 

Riches won but mock the old, unable years;

Fame’s a pearl that hides beneath a sea of tears;

Love must wither, or must live alone and weep.

In the sunshine, through the leaves, across the flowers,

While we slumber, death approaches through the hours …

Let me sleep.

by: William Ernest Henley

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Banned Artist

 

I am glad you banned my books,

you made me a hero overnight –

till last year no one knew my name

today my name is being taken in

the same breath as Rushdie, Nasreen.

 

Publishers are a bit upset though,

the ban has actually done them in –

pumped good money into the printing,

but one feels happy for photo-copiers,

they also have a right to living.

 

Ah, you removed my poems from the school textbooks

they won’t be reading them in classrooms anymore;

but yesterday while walking behind the dumping grounds

I think I heard those naked kids recite a few lines

from my banned poems – where did they pick up the lines?

from neighbourhood gossips? from the local fish market

or from local trains’ chatter as they crossed the lines?

 

Nah, I was not happy when you first banned my books.

Now I don’t mind at all, rather I am quietly grateful

for the little bit of fame you brought me overnight –

You don’t mind a bit of fame, do you, if it comes free?

 

I know you will soon ban my pens, my shoes

my glasses, my pajamas, my little funny tools

with which I plied my trade, made my living.

Soon you will also ban them from doing

anything that I did – not to walk like me

talk like me, sing like me, whisper like me –

for my whispers are of the most suspicious kind

the kind of thing that fuels disturbances

earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis.

 

It’ll be a good thing if you also banned the sun,

the moon, the sky, the sea, the caged bird

and the free bird also of whom I have sung

for that will make people take more notice

of the sun, moon, the caged bird and free bird

of which world has become a bit forgetful lately.

 

by: Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan

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Ain’t I A Woman?

 

Wall, chilern,

whar dar is so much racket

dar must be somethin’ out o’ kilter.

I tink dat ‘twixt de nigger of de Souf

and de womin at de Norf,

all talkin’ ’bout rights,

de white men will be in a fix pretty soon.

But what’s all dis here talkin’ ’bout?

 

Dat man ober dar say

dat womin needs to be helped into carriages,

and lifted ober ditches,

and to hab de best place everywhar.

Nobody eber halps me into carriages,

or ober mudpuddles,

or gibs me any best place!

And ar’n’t I a woman?

 

Look at me!

Look at my arm!

I have ploughed,

and planted,

and gathered into barns,

and no man could head me!

And ar’n’t I a woman?

 

I could work as much

and eat as much as a man —

when I could get it —

and bear de lash as well!

And ar’n’t’ I a woman?

 

I have borne thirteen chilern,

and seen ’em mos’ all sold off to slavery,

and when I cried out with my mother’s grief,

none but Jesus heard me!

And ar’n’t I a woman?

 

Den dey talks ’bout dis ting in de head;

what dis dey call it?

‘Intellect,’

(whispered someone near).

Dat’s it, honey.

What’s dat got to do wid womin’s rights

or nigger’s rights?

If my cup won’t hold but a pint,

and yourn holds a quart,

wouldn’t ye be mean

not to let me have my little half-measure full?

 

Den dat little man in black dar,

he say women can’t have as much rights as men,

’cause Christ wan’t a woman!

Whar did your Christ come from?

Whar did your Christ come from?

From God and a woman!

Man had nothin’ to do wid Him.

 

If de fust woman God ever made

was strong enough to turn de world upside down

all alone,

dese women togedder ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!

And now dey is asking to do it,

de men better let ’em.

 

Bleeged to ye for hearin’ on me,

and now ole Sojourner

han’t got nothin’ more to say.’

 by: Sojourner Truth

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A Poet To His Baby Son

 

Tiny bit of humanity,

Blessed with your mother’s face,

And cursed with your father’s mind.

 

I say cursed with your father’s mind,

Because you can lie so long and so quietly on your back,

Playing with the dimpled big toe of your left foot,

And looking away,

Through the ceiling of the room, and beyond.

Can it be that already you are thinking of being a poet?

 

Why don’t you kick and howl,

And make the neighbors talk about

“That damned baby next door,”

And make up your mind forthwith

To grow up and be a banker

Or a politician or some other sort of go-getter

Or—?—whatever you decide upon,

Rid yourself of these incipient thoughts

About being a poet.

 

For poets no longer are makers of songs,

Chanters of the gold and purple harvest,

Sayers of the glories of earth and sky,

Of the sweet pain of love

And the keen joy of living;

No longer dreamers of the essential dreams,

And interpreters of the eternal truth,

Through the eternal beauty.

Poets these days are unfortunate fellows.

Baffled in trying to say old things in a new way

Or new things in an old language,

They talk abracadabra

In an unknown tongue,

Each one fashioning for himself

A wordy world of shadow problems,

And as a self-imagined Atlas,

Struggling under it with puny legs and arms,

Groaning out incoherent complaints at his load.

 

My son, this is no time nor place for a poet;

Grow up and join the big, busy crowd

That scrambles for what it thinks it wants

Out of this old world which is—as it is—

And, probably, always will be.

 

Take the advice of a father who knows:

You cannot begin too young

Not to be a poet.

 by: James Weldon Johnson

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Face to Face

 

Day after day, O lord of my life,

shall I stand before thee face to face.

With folded hands, O lord of all worlds,

shall I stand before thee face to face.

 

Under thy great sky in solitude and silence,

with humble heart shall I stand before thee face to face.

 

In this laborious world of thine, tumultuous with toil

and with struggle, among hurrying crowds

shall I stand before thee face to face.

 

And when my work shall be done in this world,

O King of kings, alone and speechless

shall I stand before thee face to face.

by: Rabindranath Tagore

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An Indian Love Song

 

He

 

Lift up the veils that darken the delicate moon

of thy glory and grace,

Withhold not, O love, from the night

of my longing the joy of thy luminous face,

Give me a spear of the scented keora

guarding thy pinioned curls,

Or a silken thread from the fringes

that trouble the dream of thy glimmering pearls;

Faint grows my soul with thy tresses’ perfume

and the song of thy anklets’ caprice,

Revive me, I pray, with the magical nectar

that dwells in the flower of thy kiss.

 

She

 

How shall I yield to the voice of thy pleading,

how shall I grant thy prayer,

Or give thee a rose-red silken tassel,

a scented leaf from my hair?

Or fling in the flame of thy heart’s desire the veils that cover my face,

Profane the law of my father’s creed for a foe

of my father’s race?

Thy kinsmen have broken our sacred altars and slaughtered our sacred kine,

The feud of old faiths and the blood of old battles sever thy people and mine.

 

He

 

What are the sins of my race, Beloved,

what are my people to thee?

And what are thy shrines, and kine and kindred,

what are thy gods to me?

Love recks not of feuds and bitter follies,

of stranger, comrade or kin,

Alike in his ear sound the temple bells

and the cry of the muezzin.

For Love shall cancel the ancient wrong

and conquer the ancient rage,

Redeem with his tears the memoried sorrow

that sullied a bygone age.

 

by: Sarojini Naidu

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Moonchild

 

whatever slid into my mother’s room that

late june night, tapping her great belly,

summoned me out roundheaded and unsmiling.

is this the moon, my father used to grin.

cradling me? it was the moon

but nobody knew it then.

 

the moon understands dark places.

the moon has secrets of her own.

she holds what light she can.

 

we girls were ten years old and giggling

in our hand-me-downs. we wanted breasts,

pretended that we had them, tissued

our undershirts. jay johnson is teaching

me to french kiss, ella bragged, who

is teaching you? how do you say; my father?

 

the moon is queen of everything.

she rules the oceans, rivers, rain.

when I am asked whose tears these are

I always blame the moon.

 

by: Lucille Clifton

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She

 

Looks light is fading out—wonder is waning all the more.

Is the sky blue as it was? The sky is no longer as blue,

Neither is there much wonder left in women’s eye,

Kingfishers today are children’s birds; kids are no longer

Someone’s children with silky hair; can you imagine

Love vibrant with the same blood? A punch as deadly as ever?

Fog just as cold as it was? Who cares for order, who saves

anymore? Yet life seems to turn profound all the more.

 

I have discerned a beauty not known before—shaking off

all of past—a new Spring has embraced my life;

The Shalik birds quiver in the fields—it feels chilly,

chilly out there, —still, within my heart, in the soul’s woodland

Quietly the autumn night disappeared—even the winter was

suddenly over

Because she has emerged now, whom I had sought in vain

there – in Rome and Babylon.

 

by: Jibanananda Das

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Unfortunate Coincidence

 

By the time you swear you’re his,

Shivering and sighing,

And he vows his passion is

Infinite, undying –

Lady, make a note of this:

One of you is lying.

by: Dorothy Parker

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If

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 by: Rudyard Kipling

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A Poem For Myself

 

(or Blues for a Mississippi Black Boy)

 

I was born in Mississippi;

I walked barefooted thru the mud.

 

Born black in Mississippi,

Walked barefooted thru the mud.

 

But, when I reached the age of twelve

I left that place for good.

 

My daddy chopped cotton

And he drank his liquor straight.

 

Said my daddy chopped cotton

And he drank his liquor straight.

 

When I left that Sunday morning

He was leaning on the barnyard gate.

 

Left my mama standing

With the sun shining in her eyes.

 

Left her standing in the yard

With the sun shining in her eyes.

 

And I headed North

As straight as the Wild Goose Flies,

I been to Detroit & Chicago

Been to New York city too.

 

I been to Detroit & Chicago

Been to New York city too.

 

Said I done strolled all those funky avenues

I’m still the same old black boy with the same old blues.

 

Going back to Mississippi

This time to stay for good

Going back to Mississippi

This time to stay for good-

Gonna be free in Mississippi

Or dead in the Mississippi mud.

by: Etheridge Knightreddividerline-hi

Lots Wife

 

She looked — and her eyes were instantly bound

By pain — they couldn’t see any more at all:

Her fleet feet grew into the stony ground,

Her body turned into a pillar of salt.

 

Who’ll mourn her as one of Lot’s family members?

Doesn’t she seem the smallest of losses to us?

But deep in my  heart I will always remember

One who gave her life up for one single glance.

by: Anna Akhmatova

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At Midnight

 

Now at last I have come to see what life is,

Nothing is ever ended, everything only begun,

And the brave victories that seem so splendid

Are never really won.

 

Even love that I built my spirit’s house for,

Comes like a brooding and a baffled guest,

And music and men’s praise and even laughter

Are not so good as rest.

by: Sara Teasdalereddividerline-hi

 

The Lightning Flash

 

There was a Christian bishop in his cathedral on a stormy day,

and an un-Christian woman came and stood before him,

and she said, “I am not a Christian.

Is there salvation for me from hell-fire?”

 

And the bishop looked upon the woman,

and he answered her saying, “Nay,

there is salvation for those only who are baptized

of water and of the spirit.”

 

And even as he spoke a bolt from the sky fell

with thunder upon the cathedral and it was filled with fire.

And the men of the city came running, and they saved the woman,

but the bishop was consumed, food of the fire.

 by: Khalil Gibran

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The Faithless Wife

 

So I took her to the river

believing she was a maiden,

but she already had a husband.

It was on St. James night

and almost as if I was obliged to.

The lanterns went out

and the crickets lighted up.

In the farthest street corners

I touched her sleeping breasts

and they opened to me suddenly

like spikes of hyacinth.

The starch of her petticoat

sounded in my ears

like a piece of silk

rent by ten knives.

Without silver light on their foliage

the trees had grown larger

and a horizon of dogs

barked very far from the river.

 

Past the blackberries,

the reeds and the hawthorne

underneath her cluster of hair

I made a hollow in the earth

I took off my tie,

she too off her dress.

I, my belt with the revolver,

She, her four bodices.

Nor nard nor mother-o’-pearl

have skin so fine,

nor does glass with silver

shine with such brilliance.

Her thighs slipped away from me

like startled fish,

half full of fire,

half full of cold.

That night I ran

on the best of roads

mounted on a nacre mare

without bridle stirrups.

 

As a man, I won’t repeat

the things she said to me.

The light of understanding

has made me more discreet.

Smeared with sand and kisses

I took her away from the river.

The swords of the lilies

battled with the air.

 

I behaved like what I am,

like a proper gypsy.

I gave her a large sewing basket,

of straw-colored satin,

but I did not fall in love

for although she had a husband

she told me she was a maiden

when I took her to the river.

 by: Federico García Lorca

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Unending Love

 

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…

In life after life, in age after age, forever.

My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,

That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,

In life after life, in age after age, forever.

 

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age old pain,

Its ancient tale of being apart or together.

As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,

Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.

You become an image of what is remembered forever.

 

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.

At the heart of time, love of one for another.

We have played along side millions of lovers,

Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,

the distressful tears of farewell,

Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

 

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you

The love of all man’s days both past and forever:

Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.

The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –

And the songs of every poet past and forever.

 

by: Rabindranath Tagore

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South

 

 

I returned to a stand of pines,

bone-thin phalanx

flanking the roadside, tangle

of understory—a dialectic of dark

and light—and magnolias blossoming

like afterthought: each flower

a surrender, white flags draped

among the branches. I returned

to land’s end, the swath of coast

clear cut and buried in sand:

mangrove, live oak, gulfweed

razed and replaced by thin palms—

palmettos—symbols of victory

or defiance, over and over

marking this vanquished land. I returned

to a field of cotton, hallowed ground—

as slave legend goes—each boll

holding the ghosts of generations:

those who measured their days

by the heft of sacks and lengths

of rows, whose sweat flecked the cotton plants

still sewn into our clothes.

I returned to a country battlefield

where colored troops fought and died—

Port Hudson where their bodies swelled

and blackened beneath the sun—unburied

until earth’s green sheet pulled over them,

unmarked by any headstones.

Where the roads, buildings, and monuments

are named to honor the Confederacy,

where that old flag still hangs, I return

to Mississippi, state that made a crime

of me—mulatto, half-breed—native

in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.

by: Natasha Trethewey

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Bedtime Story

 

bed calls. i sit in the dark in the living room

trying to ignore them

 

in the morning, especially Sunday mornings

it will not let me up. you must sleep

longer, it says

 

facing south

the bed makes me lay heavenward on my back

while i prefer a westerly fetal position

facing the wall

 

the bed sucks me sideways into it when i

sit down on it to put on my shoes. this

persistence on its part forces me to dress in

the bathroom where things are less subversive

 

the bed lumps up in anger springs popping out to

scratch my dusky thighs

 

my little office sits in the alcove adjacent to

the bed. it makes strange little sighs

which distract me from my work

sadistically i pull back the covers

put my typewriter on the sheet and turn it on

 

the bed complains that i’m difficult duty

its slats are collapsing. it bitches when i

blanket it with books and papers. it tells me

it’s made for blood and bone

 

lately spiders ants and roaches

have invaded it searching for food

by: Wanda Coleman

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The Dancer: The Wanderer

 

Once there came to the court of the Prince of Birkasha a dancer with her musicians.

And she was admitted to the court, and she danced before the prince to the music

the lute and the flute and the zither.

 

She danced the dance of flames, and the dance of swords and spears;

she danced the dance of stars and the dance of space.

And then she danced the dance of flowers in the wind.

 

After this she stood before the throne of the prince and bowed her body before him.

And the prince bade her to come nearer, and he said unto her,

“Beautiful woman, daughter of grace and delight, whence comes your art?

And how is it that you command all the elements in your rhythms and your rhymes?”

 

And the dancer bowed again before the prince, and she answered,

“Mighty and gracious Majesty, I know not the answer to your questions.

Only this I know: The philosopher’s soul dwells in his head,

the poet’s soul is in the heart; the singer’s soul lingers about his throat,

but the soul of the dancer abides in all her body.”

 

by: Khalil Gibran

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Mark Antony’s Speech From Julius Caeser 

 

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;

The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones,

So let it be with Caesar … The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answered it …

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,

(For Brutus is an honourable man;

So are they all; all honourable men)

Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral …

He was my friend, faithful and just to me:

But Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man….

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,

Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And, sure, he is an honourable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love him once, not without cause:

What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?

O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.

by: William Shakespeare

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The Cremation of Sam McGee

 

 

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

      By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

      That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

      But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

      I cremated Sam McGee.

 

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.

Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.

He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;

Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

 

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.

Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.

If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;

It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

 

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,

And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,

He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;

And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

 

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:

“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.

Yet ’tain’t being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;

So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

 

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;

And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.

He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;

And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

 

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,

With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;

It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,

But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

 

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.

In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.

In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,

Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

 

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;

And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;

The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;

And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

 

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;

It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”

And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;

Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

 

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;

Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;

The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;

And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

 

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;

And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.

It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;

And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

 

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;

But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;

I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.

I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.

 

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;

And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.

It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—

Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

 

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

      By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

      That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

      But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

      I cremated Sam McGee.

by: Robert W. Service

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